A multi-millionaire businessman has been allowed to remain anonymous after he faced sexual harassment and assault allegations in an employment case, it has been reported.
The Times newspaper said the man, described as one of the British establishment’s richest and most powerful figures, agreed large financial settlements with two women last year before an employment tribunal was due to take place.
As part of the settlement the women had to withdraw the claims and sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), The Times said.
The newspaper reported that one of the women claimed she was attacked and orally raped in his private office, while another woman said she was groped by him at his country residence.
Men and women who worked with the two alleged victims also provided witness statements detailing alleged physical assaults, bullying and ill treatment when working for the man, according to The Times.
The newspaper said the man has always denied the allegations.
The Times said it had fought a legal battle for more than a year for the right to report the case, but said a judge’s ruling prevented it from naming him.
The newspaper said it decided to publish a redacted report in Saturday’s edition to highlight the threat to open justice and the continued use of NDAs to silence alleged victims.
NDAs came under scrutiny as allegations of sexual assault and misconduct emerged with the Me Too movement.
Sometimes referred to as “gagging clauses”, NDAs are legal contracts used to prevent people from discussing confidential information and keep trade secrets private.
But it is clear they can be used to keep allegations of wrongdoing out of the press.
Last month, MPs criticised employers who “routinely” use NDAs to cover up allegations of unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
A report from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee said the practice was “completely unacceptable”.
Labour MP Sarah Champion, who sits on the committee, said the conditions imposed in NDAs can be “outrageous” and called for the practice to be made illegal.
The Rotherham MP said: “The use of NDA has become standard practice in all sectors but increasingly they are being used to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination cases being uncovered.
“This practice should be illegal as the perpetrators avoid being brought to account and businesses sidestep their responsibility.
“There is an inherent power imbalance with NDAs. The company is well aware that most people cannot afford an employment tribunal plus they need a good reference to continue their careers. Signing an NDA is usually the only option for most staff.
“The conditions imposed in NDAs can be outrageous – people banned from telling partners or medical professionals, in the worst cases even telling the police of a related crime would breach the NDA.
“The majority of these restrictions are unenforceable, immoral and even illegal. They place a huge, lifelong burden on the individual which is completely disproportionate to the stated aim of protecting the organisation’s reputation.”